Yesterday I hosted a cultural meetup at the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery in the Mountains above Morrison, Colorado. The monastery is the hub of the Vietnamese Buddhist community of that area. We attended the “Day of Mindfulness” that is held on a monthly basis. I was taken aback by the energy of the place. The building, although not entirely impressive, is very peaceful and welcoming.
First, before entering, I was instructed to remove my shoes. I then entered a library/sitting area where people gathered and sipped tea throughout the day. I noticed many statues of Buddha in his/her various forms or aspects that decorate the area. The Abbot of the monastery greeted me and warmly invited me into the main meditation area. When I entered the room, I noticed large windows that allow a healthy amount of light to enter the hall. Huge golden statues of Buddhas, plants and flowers, and fruit were laid out on the “altar.” I was invited to take a meditation cushion/pillow and find a seat on the floor. The rest of the day was spent in a variety of meditations, exercises, lectures, discussions, tea breaks, and eating.
I wont lie, it is extremely difficult to enter a true mediation in which I attempted to quiet the mind and become “awake” to my body and spirit. Thousands of thoughts about work, life, stress, and expectations entered and demanded to be heard. We were told that these thoughts should be allowed to enter, but not to dwell on them. The practice is easier said then done. However, when one can control the mind, peace follows. One thing is for certain, it takes daily practice to achieve these goals.
Lunch was eaten in silence in a large kitchen. The food was vegetarian and beyond delicious. I had a thought while eating that if I was able to eat this good food every day, I would live to be old and healthy. The food was prepared by Vietnamese women that belonged to the “congregation” for lack of a better word. When we finished, we all cleaned up and washed the dishes together. I loved the sense of community and how everyone was only too happy to help each other with the daily tasks of upkeep. Even us, the outsiders, pulled together and helped as though we had spent years with this community. I believe if the world worked with this sort of love, we would be in a much better place.
When the day was ending, we all sat around in a circle and discussed our experiences and asked the Abbot advice about our daily struggles. I was amazed at how honest and open everyone acted and the hard and personal questions they asked. Tears flowed as people told their stories and sought answers for their many struggles. The best aspect of the whole meeting was the complete lack of judgment. All who gathered spoke, and none were turned away.
The main teachings of Buddha involve treating each living person and creature with the love and respect they deserve as sentient, and one day enlightened, beings. Compassion, Love, and Understanding are the cornerstones of this amazing religion and culture. The Buddhists believe that we must give up attachment and stop allowing negativity and fear govern our lives. If we achieve this, we will become enlightened. I am very thankful for the experience.